Analogue Productions set out to produce the ultimate test
We’ve consulted many experts in the field, including
mastering engineers, audio experts, turntable experts and audiophile listeners,
to create a test record that’s never been made before. When Barry Wolifson from
Sterling Sound in New York City called us with the same idea we had been
thinking about – that being to create the ultimate test record – he and our
audio expert Clark Williams began to brainstorm and research ideas until they
were both completely satisfied with what should go on the record.
Most of the test records in the past have been made to test
a variety of equipment. This test record excludes silly cannon shots,
typewriters, voices on one channel and other useless fluff. This one
specifically addresses your turntable and cartridge. It’s designed to provide
the basic test signals necessary to calibrate a turntable or cutting lathe as
simply as possible. Most of the signals have specific implications, but it is
certainly possible to use them in any number of novel ways.
This record was mastered and cut on a Neumann VMS 80 lathe
at Sterling Sound and pressed at Record Technology, Inc. on high-quality,
180-gram virgin vinyl.
General Reference Level
This 1 kHz reference tone will allow you to establish a “base level” for all
Track 1 1Khz reference tone 7cm/s Mono, in phase (Lateral)
Basic reference for all measurements, adjust meter for maximum convenience (in
the studio 0VU).
Adjust preamp channel balance for equal output.
Also used to check the offset angle of the photo cartridge; L&R signals
should be exactly in phase as displayed on an oscilloscope.
Track 2 1kHz reference level Left channel only
Measure Right channel output.
Track 3 1kHz reference level Right channel only
Measure Left channel output.
The object is to sit the stylus exactly perpendicular in the groove.
Twist cartridge about its radial axis until the measurements from Track 2 and
Track 3 are equal or very close to equal for both channels.
High Frequency Adjustment
Tracks 4, 5 and 6 are used to calibrate the RIAA high
frequency equalizer of a phono preamp. This will be used to calibrate a
mastering lathe’s phono preamplifier or any phono preamplifier that has these
Track 4 1 kHz tone at -20 below reference level, Lateral
Reference for High Frequency test.
Track 5 10 kHz reference tone at -20dbu, Lateral
Adjust the high frequency until the output level equals that of Track 4.
Track 6 1 kHz to 20 kHz sweep at -20dbu, Mono (Lateral)
The AC millivoltmeter reading should stay constant across all frequencies.
There are a number of factors which can affect frequency response, including
cable capacitance, cartridge loading, tracking force and worn parts. Because of
this, it can be difficult to achieve perfectly flat frequency response.
Sometimes by making small compromises in the 10 kHz adjustment, a better
overall frequency response can be achieved.
Low Frequency Adjustment
Tracks 7 & 8 are used to calibrate the RIAA low
frequency equalizer of a phono preamp.
Track 7 1 kHz to 20 Hz sweep at 0 VU (Lateral)
Play Track 7 and measure the output with your AC millivolt meter.
Ideally, the output will be flat across all frequencies. When viewed on an
oscilloscope, the amplitude would remain constant during the frequency
Track 8 100 Hz reference tone at 0 vu (Lateral)
Adjust LF Eq to reference (which is your reading from Track 1).
Track 9 VTA adjust
This is an IEC intermodulation distortion (IMD) test signal; 60Hz & 4kHz
Using an IMD tester, adjust VTA by raising or lowering the tonearm for minimum
Track 10 Standard Wow & Flutter test signal; 3150Hz
The Wow & Flutter meter will give dynamic speed variations as a percentage
deviation from nominal.
Also, the frequency counter should read exactly 3150 Hz for nominal speed. You
can use the Hz function on your multi-meter (if so equipped) to verify speed
here as well. You can also use to find the measurements at 45RPM. The correct
reading at 45RPM would be 4253 Hz (45/33.33) x 3150.
Track 1 Anti-skating test; 315Hz amplitude sweep to
Signal should remain clean in both channels up to the highest level, both
audibly and as viewed on an oscilloscope. In case of distortion, increase
anti-skating force or decrease anti-skate until breakup occurs equally in both
channels. The left channel information is inscribed on the inner groove wall,
the right channel information, on the outer groove wall. Because of the offset
angle of a pivoted tonearm, a constantly varying vector force biases the arm
towards the center of the record causing the stylus to lose contact with the
outer (i.e. right channel) groove wall. Both linear and modulated groove
velocity, tracking force, stylus profile, and vinyl composition are
contributing factors. The anti skating force attempts to ameliorate this by
applying an opposing similar force.
It is also accepted that the overall force vector increases as the tonearm
approaches closer to the spindle or end of the record.
Track 2 Pink noise lateral
Track 3 Pink noise vertical
Used for cartridge “demagnetizing”
You can also use this track to loosen up the cantilever’s suspension to help
break in a new cartridge. Play these tracks five to ten times after every 300
hours of normal LP playback.
Track 4 1kHz @ reference level, vertical
This out-of-phase signal should cancel to nothing when summed to mono.
Any signals still present are distortion artifacts, lack of channel balance, or
timing (phase) anomalies. This test can be a second confirmation of anti-skate
Track 5 1kHz to 10Hz sweep @ -20 below
reference level, vertical
Resonance anomalies in the tonearm / cartridge interface will show up as
amplitude peaks and dips as the frequency sweeps down.
Once again, by listening in ‘Mono’ it is easier to hear the distortion
Track 6 Silent groove for bearing rumble and table isolation
During playback of this track, nothing should be transmitted from the turntable
to the speakers. Replay the track and gently tap on the rack or base that the
turntable is resting on. There should be little or no thump transferred to the
speakers. This track will help you experiment with turntable isolation methods
and products to be able to get the most out of your playback system. You may
want to use a closed or sealed headphone for best listening results, or a
stethoscope on the plinth.
by Clark Williams and Barry Wolifson
Sterling Sound on a Neumann VMS-80 cutting lathe with a newly rebuilt
Track list: Side 1: 1. 1 kHz reference tone
7cm/s lateral in phase (mono) 2. 1 kHz reference level, left channel only 3. 1
kHz reference level, right channel only 4. 1 kHz tone at -20dB below reference
level, lateral 5. 10 kHz reference tone at -20dB, lateral 6. 1 kHz to 20 kHz
sweep at -20dB, lateral 7. 1 kHz to 20 Hz sweep at 0VU, lateral 8. 100 Hz
reference tone at 0VU, lateral 9. VTA adjust 10. Standard Wow & Flutter
test signal; 3150 Hz Side 2: 1. Anti-skating test; 315 Hz amplitude sweep to
+12dB, lateral 2. Pink noise lateral 3. Pink noise vertical 4. 1 kHz at
reference level, vertical 5. 1 kHz to 10 Hz sweep at -20dB below reference
level, vertical 6. Silent groove for bearing rumble and table isolation